2011: Controversial figures meet their demise
Newspaper headlines announce the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
December 27th, 2011
05:23 AM ET

2011: Controversial figures meet their demise

Though it’s never something to rejoice, 2011 may be most remembered for the demise of some controversial figures. Their deaths sparked both celebration and anger; they had fanatical supporters but many more who loathed them and what they stood for. Here is a look back at the significance of the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Gadhafi.

Osama bin Laden killed on May 2 – Enemy number 1 for many Western governments, the al Qaeda leader managed to remain hidden despite a worldwide manhunt to track him down after he planned the September 11th attacks. Nearly 10 years after that tragic day, a search by the CIA finally tracked him down to a compound in Pakistan. With the go-ahead from President Obama, Seal Team 6 launched a night raid on the compound in the city of Abbottabad and killed bin Laden.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/05/02/griffin.obl.killed.timeline.cnn.html"%5D

Anwar al-Awlaki killed on September 30 – If Osama bin Laden was the heart and soul of al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki was its voice. The English-speaking propagandist was famed for his ability to speak to and inspire jihadists around the world, prompting President Obama to approve the first-ever targeted killing of a U.S. citizen. The American-born cleric had managed to escape at least two previous assassination attempts, before being killed by a Predator drone in Yemen.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/10/01/starr-al-awlaki-killed.cnn.html"%5D

Moammar Gadhafi killed on October 20 – In the eyes of Americans, the Libyan leader alternated between potential North African ally and the “mad dog” of the Middle East – but to many in his country he was simply a brutal dictator. As the Arab Spring spread to Libya, protests turned to outright rebellion as civilians and some army units took up arms against pro-Gadhafi forces. After months of heavy fighting, support from NATO forces helped the rebels overthrow the Gadhafi regime and, a month later, Gadhafi was found in his hometown of Sirte. Cell phone video captured his final moments.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/10/21/lister-gadhafi-last-moments-alive.cnn.html"%5D
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Barack Obama • CIA • Libya • NATO • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Security • September 11 • Terrorism • War • World • Yemen
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Andreas Moser

    Gaddafi should have heeded the saying “Be nice to people on your way up, because you might meet them on your way down”: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/be-nice-to-people-on-your-way-up/

    December 27, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andreas Moser

    How in Laden was REALLY found: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/tracking-down-osama-bin-laden/

    December 27, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Mantis99999

      He's dead, let it go...

      December 27, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. misc

    why is Kim Jong Il not on this list...

    December 27, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • TheRealist

      Because he wasn't killed. He died of illness.

      December 27, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dave

    And by "controversial", I guess CNN means "known mass murderers"...

    I don't see any "controversy" here. It's just too bad it wasn't sooner in all three cases.

    December 27, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kirk

    "Controversial figures" I didn't see George W. Bush on the list.

    December 27, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy T.

      he isnt dead.

      December 27, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Randy T.

    Though it’s never something to rejoice. Are you serious ? Thats like saying 9-11 wasnt that bad. Yes, rejoice these murdering clowns are dead. We should remember the pain they caused for their own personal gain. These were monsters that caused so much grief.

    December 27, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dude

    Controversial? That implies that some people support these figures and some people don't. So how many people supported Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki? Can we get a show of hands? Can you e-mail your GPS Coordinates? Great. Step out into the street. Stand away from women and children. Look skyward. Smile. Wait for it . . .

    December 27, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. the truth

    Indeed.

    We killed Saddam, we got al queda daily bombing in Iraq
    We took over afghanistan, now we have faily bombing in afghanistan

    Assad was kicked out, now egypt protest is increasing and more people are being killed
    We help kill gaddafi, now we have a humanitarian crisis in Libya
    we condemned syria but do nothing because they lack oil, now we have a mass killing
    we support yemen a dictator, now he's on a ramage

    So tell me, was it really that bad for the US to stay a home, fix its economy, and leave the world be?

    December 27, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. forsingle

    Bigtalls.c0m..a nice club for tàll people to date. You need not to be beautiful or handsome,if you are over 5'8", as long as you are tàll, you are very popular here.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. dt

    You should get some help sir.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. dt

    I giggle when i see the current tribe of GOP propagandists claim that the current President has done nothing good with foreign policy. Seems to me he mopped up most of the gigantic mess created by Bozo the cowboy.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Elijah

    Too bad Usama bin Laden won't stay dead. Just as we were foretold, the beast will soon rise from the sea. The abomination of desolation shall find new life in the form of a false miracle, for the day of the Lord is both great and very terrible, and who can bin-Laden? Mullah Omar – that's who.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. mikrik13

    And yet Bush/Cheney roam free and have not been prosecuted for their crimes.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Andreas Moser

      I think they had the bipartisan support of Congress, at least in the first years.

      December 27, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • TriXen

      I think Bush meant well... Cheney I'm not so sure about. One thing we'd probably agree on though is that Bush was an awful president (whether he meant to be or not). Sadly, I don't think Obama is much better. It's going to be a long time before we have another really good president in the US.

      December 27, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • MICKY D

      Yes and they still live in the lap of luxury paid for by the American People!

      December 27, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • JohnLA

      Bush/Cheney did what had to be done and it was justified. Obama has done the same when it comes to foreign policy and taking out terriost. I applaud all of them and I am glad these monsters are dead. It took the Bush administration to let Obama's administration have this success. Just like Reagan Administration paved the way for Clinton's. It is sad so many of our country men and women have died and politics have tainted it all. God Bless all our presidents and armed forces. We have our freedom because of you all.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Though I thoroughly despise Bush/Cheney, I think its far better that they "roam free" at the "expense of the
      American taxpayer" than that Osama/Awlaki/Gadafi be allowed another breath on this Earth. Good riddance
      to all of them and congratulations to Barack Obama for whatever he may have done to speed the deaths of
      Bin Laden, Awlaki, and Gadafi. I even hope he had something to do with Kim Jung Ils demise, and I hope he
      has plans for Ahmadinijad's future...

      December 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      Protestors should be sitting on their lawns. We are paying for their mistakes and it will be a long time before we can get out from under their deceit.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdub87

      I hated those two and felt they and their initiatives did a lot to mess up this country, but it's unfounded to even compare them to these guys. You wonder why this political system is so screwed? It's because of polarizing statements like this whether out of disillusion or jest. Congratulations, you are part of the problem.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      There is no comparison

      December 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      TriXen ... if really good Presidents came along all that often, we wouldn't have anything to measure them against. Babe Ruth was remarkable only because no one else could hit as many home runs as he did. But if there were a bunch of players hitting just as many home runs at the same time, no one would remember the Babe.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Ahh figured someone would be after Bush/Cheney. Get a life brother and move on it almost 2012 and you sound like a broken record.

      December 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brandon

    LOL, "Controversial"?

    December 27, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      And did you notice, CNN couldn't bear to utter the word "terrorist"? Not mentioned in this article at all....

      December 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alan

    Good riddance to all of them. The tyrants who control Syria and Iran are next.

    December 27, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      That will be a tough one and we probably wont see that in our lifetime. Syria would happen before Iran. All you have to do is look at the last time the people in Iran revolted. Serious government crack down while we watched. Their military is way better than Libya's.

      December 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      You make a good point but I remain hopeful. I mean, a year ago the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were completely stable dictatorships...anything can happen these days. It might take longer, but eventually all of the despots will fall.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
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